Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Just another day at Hawk Ridge

I got to serve as "emergency auxiliary backup hawk count interpreter" yesterday at Hawk Ridge, and it was a splendid day. The hawks were flying high, probably wanting to get the heck out of here before today's rain started falling, so few dropped down to the banding station, but of the six birds that did get trapped, one was a Northern Goshawk and one a Peregrine Falcon of the northern tundrius subspecies.

Julie O'Connor was adorable showing that bird off! She spends her summers showing thousands of Duluthians and visitors the downtown Peregrine family for the "Peregrine Watch!" program. When you spend as much time as Julie does watching tiny nestlings day after day, seeing them looking up and down at the big world when they first toddle to the edge of the nest box, then start flapping their wings and sometimes running along the ledge in a most ungainly manner, you can't help but get emotionally invested. It's heart-stopping when they make their first awkward flights--not so much the being in the air as the landing. And then voila! They're hunting downtown, then disappearing for long stretches--and suddenly it's hawk migration time and one baby who grew up way far north on the tundra comes down to Hawk Ridge and who but Julie gets to hold it and show it off for the crowd? Her joy was contagious.

I got to stand next to the counters, Karl and Nick. I was in mid-sentence talking to the crowd when Karl called out a Boreal Chickadee! It was calling, and what a thrill to hear--they sound like a Black-capped Chickadee with a terminal disease, with a wheezy "chickadee" that sounds like it's their last gasp.

Karl also pointed out a flock of geese winging by which I would have just ticked off as mostly Canadas with one lone Snow Goose. But noooooooooo-- Karl's sharp, experienced eyes caught the short necks and tiny stub bills on the darker geese. These were Cackling Geese and one Ross's Goose!

A family of Sandhill Cranes flew by, too, along with lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers tsking like annoyed math teachers and a couple of Palm Warblers tsking like annoyed music teachers.

We didn't notice any hummingbirds. The seed on the rocks attracted LOTS of White-throated Sparrows, with many more adults than have been there recently, and also at least one White-crowned Sparrow and one Lincoln's Sparrow. I took photos with my digiscoping camera which I'll post later.
Julie shows off the goshawk and then it's released.

In the blink of an eye

Photon had a jolly time, but stayed in the shade.

Nick (who graciously let me take over his responsibilities for the day as he counted)

The pièce de résistance